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The theme for this year’s MCAN conference is Champions for Opportunity: Prioritizing Michigan’s College Attainment. My work is focused on helping educators become champions of college opportunity, so needless to say, I’m excited for this conference! My personal mission is to ensure that student outcomes are not determined by zip code, and I do this by ensuring that teachers have what they need to help all students achieve at high levels.

I work for an educational nonprofit, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). At AVID, we have a saying: When teachers are engaged, all students succeed. Our focus is on providing the best resources, training, and research-based strategies to our educators. We impact students through giving teachers what they need to help more students be college-ready. We care about teachers, and the tools and support that they receive, because we were founded by a teacher.

In 1980, Mary Catherine Swanson, an English teacher in San Diego, California, saw many at her school lowering expectations and giving up on the new students who were being bussed in from San Diego’s lower-income areas (aka, the wrong zip codes). Swanson felt that it was her moral imperative to create real college opportunities for these students. That year, she created AVID—a class that provided academic and social support, raised expectations, and gave those first 32 AVID students the opportunity to become college- and career-ready. Today, 37 years later, AVID serves 1.5 million students in 46 states and 16 other countries/territories.

Our data tell the story of AVID’s impact in closing the achievement gap. AVID seniors outpace the national average of enrolling in college for the first fall term after high school. This success is exceptional considering that AVID’s student population is largely comprised of students who are underrepresented in higher education. AVID students are also persisting in college at higher rates. Our latest data show that 85% of AVID students overall are persisting into year 2 of college versus 78% nationwide.

We have a goal of ensuring that all students reach their full potential, and we meet this goal through partnering with schools and working side-by-side with teachers, administrators, and district leaders to create new opportunities for students.

The vital question for all of us to consider is: How many more students do we want to impact? Will we let students slip through the cracks or settle for the status quo? I shared the story of AVID’s founder because it continually inspires me to push for better opportunities for all students. If you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to say that you’re with me in this fight. I’m excited to be a part of Michigan’s work to impact more students and help all of them achieve their college dreams, and I’m also excited to meet all of you at the upcoming MCAN Conference, so we can discuss ways to champion college attainment for all students.

If you want to learn more about how AVID partners with schools and the research-based strategies that we provide, please contact me by email at vpeterson(a) or by phone at 773-426-8912. I hope to meet you at the MCAN Conference, as well.


Author: Dr. Valerie Peterson, Partner Engagement Manager, AVID
Posted: February 15, 2017

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